Scottish writer Iain Banks, who alternately wowed and disturbed readers with his dark jokes and narrative tricks, has died, his publisher said Sunday. He was 59.
Banks, whose writing took readers from rural Scotland to the edge of space, announced in April that he was terminally ill with cancer and that his soon-to-be released novel, The Quarry, would be his last.
A message on a website set up to provide updates to family, friends and fans quoted his wife Adele as saying Banks died in the early hours of Sunday. “His death was calm and without pain,” she said.
His publisher, Little Brown, said in a statement that Banks’ “ability to combine the most fertile of imaginations with his own highly distinctive brand of gothic humor made him unique. He is an irreplaceable part of the literary world.”
Banks had two parallel literary careers: One as a general fiction author whose twisted plots are sprinkled with brutality, the other as a science-fiction writer whose imaginative universes spawned a fanzine and spun out a devoted online following. He even had two names: Iain Banks for the general fiction, Iain M. Banks, for the sci-fi.
Banks published his first novel, the dark and funny The Wasp Factory in 1984. His first science fiction book, Consider Phlebas, was published three years later.
His books were both critical and popular successes. The Crow Road — which opens with the memorable line “It was the day my grandmother exploded” — was adapted for television in 1996.
He was cited as an inspiration by fellow writers in Scotland and beyond. Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh called him “one of my all-time literary heroes,” and crime writer Ian Rankin remembered Banks’ “great sense of fun, of excitement.”
“He was a great guy to hang around with and somebody for whom life and the world were a fictional template for him to do as he pleased,” Rankin said.
Banks was also an expert on Scotch whisky — writing a book on the subject — and was politically active, lending his name to left-wing causes including the anti-war movement and the cultural boycott of Israel.
In 2008, he was named one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 in a list compiled by The Times of London.
In April, Banks announced that he had been diagnosed with gall bladder cancer and was “officially very poorly.”
He canceled all public appearances and married his long-term partner, Adele, saying she had agreed to the honor of “becoming my widow.”
Last month, he said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection and praise his announcement had prompted.
“It means a lot, almost more than I can say, and — whatever type or size of screen I read the comments on — I come away from the computer, laptop, iPad or phone with a happy smile on my face,” he wrote.
Banks is survived by his wife. Details of funeral arrangements were not available Sunday.